Overcoming Adversity as a Model
As a model, I have gotten into the habit of scrutinizing my image: what I aim to portray and what others see in me. I sometimes get caught up in the realm of the superficial, wishing away every stray hair or blemish, and forget to let my inner beauty shine. But if ever there were a reminder, it came to me on November 2, 2012.
I remember the chill in the air, grabbing a sweatshirt and spritzing it with my favorite body spray. I remember going outside to smoke a cigarette, something I am not proud of but not ashamed of, either. I let myself get lost in thought for those few quick minutes, but as I did, an ember from my cigarette fell onto my sweatshirt and caught fire. What started out as a tiny flame soon grew and spread to my torso, neck and shoulders. I struggled to remove the sweatshirt and put out the fire, and in doing so, sustained third-degree burns over 30% of my body. I was so in shock at the time that the burns didn’t even hurt, so I neglected to call 911 and instead tried splashing water on the burned areas. This is what I was doing when my roommate found me, and noticed the severity of the situation. She called for an ambulance and to this day I am grateful that she did, because if she hadn’t, I could’ve very easily gone to bed and never woken up.
I was hospitalized for about three weeks, during which time I had two skin graft surgeries and spent numerous hours in physical therapy. Around Thanksgiving I was released into the care of my grandmother; my physical wounds were healing rapidly but my emotional wounds, not so much. I cringed every time I looked into the mirror. I began to feel hyper-aware of people staring and of their intrusive questions. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.
I’m not sure when my mentality shifted from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor,’ but with time and enough encouragement from my friends and family, it absolutely did. Rather than rest on my laurels, I was forced to look deep inside myself for the inner beauty and strength I possessed; I had to relearn how to cultivate them so that I could interact with the world around me. I began to view my accident as less of a tragedy and more of a call-to-arms; I knew the time had come for me to focus not on my external self as I had for many years, but on what was and is inside of me.
I experienced a shift in my world view once I began to cultivate my strengths; I began to see myself in a whole new light as well. I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t ever model again, at least not as successfully as I did before my accident. Even then, I would have to wait until the bandages came off. But, until then, I had a whole other array of skills at my disposal. I am a skilled writer, mostly of poetry, a cake decorator, a novice knitter, a cool older sister and a decent enough friend. I have a tremendous amount of empathy and good insight into my own emotions. I treat people the way I want to be treated and am loyal to a fault. And, scarred as I am, I am beautiful.
Now that my wounds have healed I have begun modeling again, this time with a different vision in mind: I want to be an inspiration to those who feel held back by their scars, physical or emotional. I want to show people that while physical beauty is aesthetically pleasing, it cannot compare to the mark left by one’s inner beauty. Moreover, I want to prove that with enough courage and conviction, anything is possible. With these things at my command, I will thrive instead of just survive.